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Take steps to keep your kids safe from dog bites

Take steps to keep your kids safe from dog bites

by Susan Wyatt


Posted on May 20, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Updated Sunday, May 20 at 2:01 PM

Of the 4.7 million Americans bitten by dogs annually, more than half are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and between 12 and 20 people die from dog attacks annually. Senior citizens are the second most common bite victims.

Seattle is No. 12 on the U.S. Postal Service top 25 dog attack cities list.  Tacoma is No. 22. The Postal Service released the list to kick off National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 19-25.

In 2011, there were 28 attacks on Postal workers in Seattle; there were 18 in Tacoma.

USPS, the medical community, veterinarians and the insurance industry are working together to educate the public that dog bites are avoidable.

Parents should never leave a young child unsupervised around any dog - even a dog well-known to your family.

“Even the friendliest dog may bite when startled or surprised,” says Michael Neumeister, American Society of Reconstructive Medicine.  “Be cautious, once a child is scarred they are scarred for life. We hear this line all the time ‘The dog has never bitten anyone before.’ A dog’s reaction to being surprised or angered is not predictable.”

The ASPCA says 50 percent of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday. The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to the child - his or her own pet, a neighbor's or friend's. They suggest the following list of pledges that will help your child understand the difference between safe and potentially dangerous interactions with dogs.

Recite these pledges with your child:
1. I will not stare into a dog's eyes.
2. I will not tease dogs behind fences.
3. I will not go near dogs chained up in yards.
4. I will not touch a dog I see loose (off-leash) outside.
5. If I see a loose dog, I will tell an adult immediately.
6. I will not run and scream if a loose dog comes near me.
7. I will stand very still (like a tree), and will be very quiet if a dog comes near me.
8. I will not touch or play with a dog while he or she is eating.
9. I will not touch a dog when he or she is sleeping.
10. I will only pet a dog if I have received permission from the dog's owner.
11. Then I will ask permission of the dog by letting him sniff my closed hand.

The National Dog Bite Prevention Week partners offer the following tips:

Avoiding Attacks
•  Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
•  Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
•  If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
•  Never approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
•  Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
•  Anyone wanting to pet a dog should first obtain permission from the owner.
•  Always let a dog see and sniff you before petting the animal.
•  If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
•  If you are knocked down by a dog, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.

Be a Responsible Dog Owner
•   Obedience training can teach a dog to behave properly and help owners control their dogs.
•    When letter carriers and others who are not familiar with your dog come to your home, keep your dog inside, in another room away from the door.
•   In protecting their territory, dogs may interpret people’s actions as a threat.
•   Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to roam.
•   Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.

If Bitten
•  Rinse the bite area with soapy water.
•  Elevate limb(s) that have been bitten.
•  Apply antiseptic lotion or cream. Watch the area for signs of infection for several days after the incident.
•  For deeper bites or puncture wounds, apply pressure with a clean bandage or towel to stop the bleeding. Then wash the wound, dry it and cover with a sterile dressing. Don’t use tape or butterfly bandages to close the wound. 
 •  It’s a good idea to call your child’s physician because a bite could require antibiotics or a tetanus shot.  The doctor also can help you to report the incident.
 •  If your child is bitten severely, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room.
When going to the emergency room, advise the personnel of: your tetanus vaccination status; vaccine status of the dog; who the dog owner is; and, if the dog has bitten before.

Dog bite prevention resources

American Veterinary Medical Association

AMVA - The role of breed in dog bite risk and prevention

American Academy of Pediatrics

Center for Disease Control